Whether your own life has spun out of control or you can’t bear watching someone you care about suffer, getting into alcohol treatment is a priority. Your life has been on hold long enough, so it can be frustrating is there’s a waiting list for assistance. Fortunately, there are options available that may make the waiting period for treatment shorter and less stressful.
Factors That May Determine Wait Times
The most recent statistics available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) state that about 70% of people in treatment for substance use issues are there for alcohol. However, the US National Library of Medicine found that of the more than 23 million people seeking treatment for alcohol abuse, only 11% got help.
Part of the problem is wait times for treatment, which can be discouraging for you and your loved ones when you need help. Although several states have mandated no waiting lists for treatment at state-funded facilities, and some larger cities have even mandated service on demand, the median waiting time for most is in-patient 40 days. The factors that determine how long you wait for treatment are:
- Type of facility
- Type of treatment
- Insurance coverage or financing
- Work or family obligations
The longest waiting periods are for those seeking in-patient treatment at a state-funded facility. Often, there isn’t adequate space or funding for the number of people needing help, There are emergency measures in place if you need immediate care or are in danger of harming yourself. Private residential facilities tend to have shorter waiting periods, and outpatient treatment is usually available right away. You can also consider out-patient treatment as an interim measure to maintain your positive momentum toward getting help.
Sometimes intake is delayed due to financial considerations. The person needing treatment may not have insurance coverage and their family is scrambling to come up with the money to pay for services. Other times, it comes down to child care issues or getting the time off from a job or school to go into a facility. Treatment will be much more productive with these pressures taken off of your shoulders beforehand.
The Effectiveness of 12-Step Programs
One of the oldest sobriety programs is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Begun in 1935 by a doctor and a stockbroker, both recovering alcoholics, it’s based in part on a 12-step system of self-evaluation and making amends. This recovery method’s premise is founded on is the belief that alcohol abuse is more than just a bad habit; it’s a disease that affects the mind, body, and spirit.
Some people find the networking and support so rewarding, they attend meetings for years. Some also become counselors and sponsors themselves. The success of the 12-step model lead to its expansion into other areas of addiction, including:
- Al-Anon and Ala-Teen, for families of alcoholics, 1951
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA), for drug addiction, 1953
- Over-eaters Anonymous (OA), for emotional eaters, 1960
A benefit of 12-step programs is that there is usually no waiting, and there’s are often several chapters in every city. Even the smallest towns have an AA chapter meeting at the local church, community center, or school. While this isn’t an option for everyone looking to get sober, it may be a way to put yourself in the right mindset and make your waiting time for a facility more productive. It may also offer ongoing support after you officially complete your treatment program.
How Waiting Affects Those With Alcohol Use Issues and Their Families
Gaining timely access to treatment is not only imperative for your health, it’s also important for your state of mind. Taking the step to get help is hard enough, and having to wait may cause you to have doubts and second-thoughts. It’s essential for you and your family to hang in there and not lose hope. There are some productive things you can do if you find yourself on a waiting list.
Waiting for treatment can lead to setbacks or even worsen the problem. Studies show that the longer the wait, the lower the chances of success. That’s why you need to keep a positive attitude and try to pass the waiting time productively. You can join a 12-step program or seek outpatient treatment to build a foundation if you need intensive treatment for long-term or heavy use.
What You Can Do While You’re Waiting for Treatment
If it is a family member or friend who is waiting for help, try to provide a supportive and safe environment. As long as your personal safety – or that of others in the home – isn’t in jeopardy, support can be as basic as a roof over their head, good food, and conversation.
Be aware that they may still be drinking during this time. You might encourage them to cut down while they’re waiting to go into treatment, but quitting altogether without professional supervision may be dangerous for them. If they are in fairly good health and functional, but not working or in school, it may help them to have something to do, even if it’s just walking the dog or helping around the house.
If you or your loved one is working or enrolled in school, and it’s financially feasible, taking a leave of absence during this transitional phase is a good idea. That way, they – or you – can preserve relationships at work or school at a time when mental or physical functioning may not be up to par. This time can also be spent getting in-take paperwork in order, applying for financial assistance, if available, or checking on insurance coverage and financial obligations like co-pays.
Your wait for treatment will be that much longer if you wait to begin the process. That first step belongs to you. Call 888-380-0342 to get the help and support that you or a loved one needs. Counselors are available 24/7.